The Pentagon’s Transport Command and SpaceX are joining forces to explore the possibility of using rockets to quickly deliver cargo around the world. At first glance, the idea is very tempting and technically feasible, but not everything is so simple.
Thus, a rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base (Southern California) can theoretically enter low-earth orbit and return to the atmosphere practically anywhere on the planet. Space delivery could very well revolutionize military transportation. For example, a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane at a speed of 805 km / h will take 12 hours to fly from California to the island of Okinawa. A rocket with such a flight will be completed in half an hour.
The missiles also do not require air refueling, they do not need permits to fly over transit states, and they do not have to overcome their air defense systems.
At the moment, two options are being considered for transportation using missiles. The first involves launching from a space base in the continental United States to a specific point on Earth. The second option is to launch a cargo spacecraft with the necessary cargo into orbit, where it will stay for some time, so that then, on command from the Earth, deliver the cargo to its destination within an hour at most.
It remains to find out how all this is feasible. One of the problems is time. If the space flight itself takes only 30 minutes, then preparation for it can take from several days to months.
Another issue is cost. Thus, the delivery of 25 tons of cargo using a Falcon 9 rocket will cost $ 28 million, and the Starship space system will cost $ 2 million per launch. For comparison, a 12-hour flight on a C-17 cargo from California to Japan costs only $ 312,000. Even if we add the cost of refueling with the participation of the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft, the costs will be 4 times lower than for rocket.